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Setlampoloka murder trial on nine years later

MPHO MOKWAPE
Murder accused in Setlampoloka's case
Nine years on, the police officers on trial for the murder of Italy Keedirile Setlampoloka are still in limbo where their fate is concerned.

The picture so far is not pretty as they say a picture paints a thousands words.  The six officers accused of murder are showing nothing less than irritation as another postponement seems unavoidable for the lot.

The trial was set for continuation on Monday, but as they were waiting, the officers and their lawyers received word to the effect that, “Prosecution is not aware of such development. It will be impossible for the trial to go (on)”.

There were no witnesses in sight when the prosecution led by Dumisani Marapo arrived. This only confirmed that the case will take another backseat, and its further confirmation that the officers will see more days pass by, adding further to the nine years they have been waiting.

The six police officers, who stand accused of murdering Setlampoloka are detective assistant Superintendent Thuso Dintwe, sub-Inspector Ranto Mmereki, Constables Tebogo Khutsafalo, Kabo Ramohibidu, Michael Ramhitshane and Patrick Gobotswang.

They have been on trial since 2013 when their case was committed to the High Court, having been accused of the murder in 2009.

“If at all we were guilty of this offence, I tell you we could have finished our sentences by now, the way this case has been dragging is appalling. We are exhausted,” one of the officers fumed.

In their recollection of the case, one officer said they were arrested around the same time with the killers of John Kalafatis, but as it stands, the latter has long been  decided while theirs was yet to see the light of day.

All of them are on bail, but their freedom is hollow. They reckon there are many downfalls to their appellation ‘Accused’ and having to go many years without reaching a point of knowing where their fate lies.

“Merely months after Ian Khama took office, we found ourselves in this predicament. How sad it is that Khama has now finished his 10-year term and us we are still here. This is a 2009 case and we have been here since 2013 going back and forth each time the case has to

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continue,” said one of them.

This time around when the case finally got called on the roll before Justice Leatile Dambe, the officers had already concluded it was a hopeless situation.

Following a short briefing, Justice Dambe called it behind Chambers and a new date for continuation was agreed upon.

It is no secret that the many times the case is delayed and postponed it was at the behest of the prosecution.

At one point the State was in a predicament because the exhibits went missing, which they cried would affect the flow of the trial.

Not only that. On numerous occasions, witnesses who were supposed to be in court  presented a plethora of excuses. An example is the key witness who is said to have been with Setlampoloka during the time he was murdered.

The witness always says he is unwell when time comes for him to come and testify, hence causing a further postponement

The case will nonetheless resume on May 31 to July 1, 2018.

According to the court papers, Setlampoloka of Mahalapye was found dead near Gabane on July 30, 2009, a day after his arrest and detention at Mogoditshane Police Station.

It was reported that Setlampoloka was arrested by members of the Serious Crimes Squad in connection with a spate of armed robberies.It is alleged that the suspect died under torture as the police tried to extract a confession out of him. The police allegedly took his body to Senamakola farmlands near Gabane where they simulated a suicide by hanging his body from a tree.

The six police officers face more charges connected to the death including unlawful disposal of a body. The officers are alleged to have tried to dispose of the objects they used to kill Setlampoloka and disposed of his body in order to cover their tracks.

They are also facing charges of giving false information to a person employed in the public service. Only one of the six, Constable Gobotswang, is facing one more charge of destroying evidence.

They have all pleaded not guilty to all the charges.



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